Thursday, April 24, 2014

Theme: Review

  • Goethe's 'The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister', a neglected masterpiece if ever there was, is known nowadays for a single line from a ballad sung by Mignon, the daughter of a wandering musician. 'Know'st thou the land where the lemon trees bloom?' begins her mysterious song, describing an imagined world of blue skies, marble statues and thunderous waterfalls, not without a lurking menace beneath its beauty. When Wilhelm asks her where she heard it, Mignon answers, 'Italy! If thou go to Italy, take me along with thee; for I am too cold here.'Read more
  • It is no doubt a macabre spectacle. In recent years, while some U.S. states have done away with the death penalty after the exonerations of dozens of prisoners, others have worked assiduously to track down the necessary drugs from questionable compounding pharmacies, all to perform executions by lethal injection. Read more
  • In The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, author Brad Stone claims that although Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ultimately supported the book, “he judged that it was ‘too early’ for a reflective look at Amazon.” By some measures, Bezos is right: Amazon is less than 20 years old, but its history contains so many rapid changes that books published about it never manage to be quite current.Read more
  • What are we to make of the recent ascendance of Alain Badiou to the position of general representative of French philosophy in the Anglophone humanities? There are multiple possible explanations, none of which seem immediately convincing on their own. Perhaps there is a general exhaustion with the linguistic focus of priorly dominant movements, most obviously deconstruction, inciting the fashion for Badiou at the same moment that it has birthed the rather different resurgence of Continental metaphysical realisms.Read more
  • There is an oft-ignored detail about Nietzsche’s story of the madman in the marketplace: the good townspeople who aren’t ready to receive the news of God’s death aren’t Christians — they’re atheists. Today’s marketplace is no longer the town square; it’s the hyper-connected virtual world of global commerce. Read more
  • In 1980, Lady Isobel Barnett was found guilty of stealing a can of tuna and a carton of cream and fined about £75. Barnett was a very public figure. For a decade or more, from the early nineteen-fifties, she had been a regular on the English version of “What’s My Line?” and on BBC Radio’s “Question Time.” Often assumed to be an aristocrat (actually, her title came from her husband, who was the mayor of Leicester), she was a quintessential lady — fine-featured, well dressed, and always with sensible, moderate opinions about the world and its doings. She embodied British deceny, uprightness, and charm.Read more
  • James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine, the heckling would start around page 10. ‘So Doc,’ relates a character called Denis (whose name, we are informed, is commonly pronounced to rhyme with — heh, heh — ‘penis’), ‘I’m up on Dunecrest, you know the drugstore there, and like I noticed their sign, “Drug”? “Store”? Okay? Walked past it a thousand times, never really saw it — Drug, Store! man, far out, so I went in and Smilin Steve was at the counter and I said, like, “Yes, hi, I’d like some drugs, please. . . .”’”Read more
  • There are very few Urdu writers who have written about these despondent days in Pakistan’s history, with perhaps one notable exception. Intizar Husain is a novelist and short story writer whose work takes an unrelenting look at man’s attempt and ultimate failure to keep his humanity during the post-Partition period. His most famous novel, Basti — originally published in 1979 and translated by Frances Pritchett — was published in the United States for the first time in 2012 as a New York Review of Books Classics Original, and short-listed for the 2013 International Man Booker Prize. Husain is also a muhajir who, like Faiz, had optimism for what Pakistan could be.Read more
  • Some classics re-emerged. Baldessari re-interpreted his 1977 video event of ‘Six Colourful Inside Jobs’ that paid homage to a legendary art origin in Sol Le Witt’s work by paying painters to repaint the room continuously in a changing palette of colours. In the Abramovic room, her 1997 classic performance ‘Luminosity’, of a nude woman poised on a bicycle seat, was restaged using a roster of paid performers.Read more
  • A book that furnishes no quotations is no book — it is a plaything. Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it. How frequently the mere purchase of a book is mistaken for the appropriation of its contents. Many will read the book before one thinks of quoting a passage.Read more
  • With the advent of the global financial crisis in 2008, we would perhaps have imagined that the entire panoply of boosterish rhetoric that subtended it – from aspirational market-oriented self-help guides to outdated theories of rational economic agents – would have vanished overnight, condemned to languish in pools of Marxist tears (of laughter). Of course, while the market may have crashed, the general worry – ‘what next?’ – was left hanging, leaving the response – despite the Arab Spring, despite Occupy, despite mass opposition in the form of global riots and protests – primarily up to an increasingly vicious ruling class to decide. Read more
  • Joss Whedon’s recent Much Ado About Nothing embodies the question: can movies made from Shakespeare still find a wide audience? It has been a long trajectory since 1948 when Laurence Olivier's Hamlet got seven nominations and three Academy awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, to the late ‘90s when Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet drew $150 million and Shakespeare in Love brought nearly $300 million to studio coffers. Read more
  • As well as being a somewhat interesting character, Georg Simmel is perhaps best described as an eclectic, diverse and unconventional social thinker. His back-catalogue constitutes a vibrant gathering of works that reveal a wide-ranging and almost uncontainable set of enthusiasms. They are rammed with ideas and thoughts that creatively respond to the world he encountered. Simmel’s writings also suggest a powerful personal drive to discover and illuminate the underpinning dynamics and dimensions of everyday life. He died in 1918 yet, as we see with this newly published book by Henry Schermer and David Jary, his work is still being discovered, analysed and debatedRead more
  • Out

    Any addict can give you a hundred reasons why he should quit, tell you dozens of stories that would make any other person quit. But the decision to quit and "what would make you stop" are two very different things for the addict.Read more
  • The Ketchup Bottle Holdup was the point where the five-year-old Manson’s life veered from hard luck to horror show. His mother and uncle went to prison in Moundsville, West Virginia. He was taken in by his aunt Glenna, in nearby McMechen, where his uncle Bill was a railroad engineer. On the boy’s first day at school, his teacher humiliated him and he ran home crying. His uncle wouldn’t stand for such sissyish behaviour, and sent him back the next day in a dress of his cousin Jo Ann’s to teach him a lesson. Read more
  • The film is unflinching in its portrayal of brutality. Noosed, strung up, and choking with just his toes touching the dirt in punishment for attacking the overseer Tibeats, Northup seems to hang forever, as daily life goes on about him. Women caught up in the obscene sexual and property relations of slavery are as sadistic as the men. And yet, the film itself does not avoid sentimentality.Read more
  • It's hard to watch Sofia Coppola's 2013 The Bling Ring, which came out on DVD about a month ago, without feeling like you're at the end of a chain (no, I didn't say human chain) of recycled celebrity worship. The film tells the story of a group of vapid and glamour-obsessed teens in LA who figure out just how easy it is to break into celebrities' houses and abscond with their blingiest objects: their antique Rolexes, their Alexander McQueen sunglasses, their Louboutin heels.Read more
  • The Dutch colonial novel The Hidden Force by the fin de siècle author Louis Couperus is regarded as one of the most significant works of Dutch colonial literature. Despite this, it has garnered relatively little critical attention when compared to the other key Dutch colonial text Max Havelaar by Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker). While Max Havelaar (1860) had an undoubtedly greater impact at time of publishing and is still celebrated for being an early Dutch example of a critical text about colonialism, The Hidden Force has been overlooked in terms of what its critical position regarding the morality of colonialism might be. Read more
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